About 600 years ago North America experienced a slight cooling that produced colder temperatures, longer winters and increased glaciation. During this Little Ice Age, Colorado's northern Front Range was blasted with precipitation. Year after year heavy snowfall filled the deep, east-facing cirques. Over time, the compressed snow transformed into ice which eventually began creeping down the valleys.
The glaciers achieved their maximum extent by 1850, then the climate began warming again. The rebellious rivers of ice have been retreating back up into the mountains ever since, leaving rugged crags and turquoise tarns in their wake. There are only fourteen named glaciers left in Colorado today.
Born from the melted ice of Isabelle Glacier, Lake Isabelle is a precious legacy from the Little Ice Age. The bowl of frigid water is contained by a steep-walled basin at the top of a spectacular, flower-infused valley. Jagged peaks are crowded around the shimmering jewel, fostering an intimate space of shade and solitude.
On an overcast day, Lake Isabelle is a remarkable mirror with eerie reflections that become shattered by afternoon thunder showers. As you come back from the lake, cold and wet, your mind begins to thaw and having been in the mountains helps you to understand how these glacial events sculpted the landscape.
Natural historian Louis Agassiz explains why these events occurred, "One naturally asks, what was the use of this great engine set at work ages ago to grind, furrow, and knead over, as it were, the surface of the earth? We have our answer in the fertile soil which spreads over the temperate regions of the globe. The glacier was God's great plough."
|Lake Isabelle is at the top of a spectacular valley|
|Surrounded by jagged peaks|
|Lake Isabelle is a remarkable mirror|
|The reflections are eerie|
|During the Little Ice Age this cirque was filled with snow|
|Isabelle Glacier (center) feeds the shimmering lake|
|An intimate space of shade and solitude|
|Afternoon rain showers|
|Being in the mountains helps you understand the landscape|
|You come back from the lake cold and wet|
|A perilous bridge crossing|